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SGT. SHAFT: Marine mom makes the grade, thanks to GI Bill

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dear Sgt Shaft:

I just wanted to drop you a quick hello. Hope all is going well. I am finally on my three weeks off of school. The semester went well. I received A's in all my classes. Not to mention, I made the Dean's List with a 3.94 GPA! Once again thanks again for all your help in getting my GI Bill squared away. Well, I hope you are enjoying the summer weather!

Leslie V.
Marine vet
Pennsylvania

Dear Leslie:

I am very proud of your accomplishments. As a student, wife and mom you make all of us Marines proud.

Shaft notes

The Sarge echoes the chairman of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, Rep. Jeff Miller, who issued the following statement on the latest tactic in the debt crisis debate:

"Taking care of America's veterans has been, and always will be, one of this country's highest priorities. Many questions have been raised recently regarding the debt crisis and what will happen to America's veterans come August 2. As of today, the Administration has yet to provide clarity to these men and women. This is a serious situation and it requires a serious response.

"Why would the President invite some of the largest Veterans Service Organizations to the White House under the guise of discussing the details of reaching the debt limit on August 2nd, and not assure them that veterans will continue to receive funding whether or not an agreement is reached? Why would the President not offer assurances to the men and women who wore this country's uniform, but instead unapologetically attempt to use veterans as pawns in a dangerous political game?

"Under the Budget Control Act of 2011 put forth by Speaker Boehner, and consistent with the ideals and priorities for veterans outlined in the House-passed budget resolution, veterans programs will continue to be adequately funded. These are the facts. Through the Budget Control Act, veterans will also continue to receive the best care and services possible from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

"We have made great strides in meeting the needs of veterans of today, while keeping our promise to yesterday's veterans. We must not be lured into turf battles, but instead rise above the political fray to fight for America's well being. As we do this, our veterans deserve better than to be used as shields in political warfare. Instead, we have an obligation to work in a bipartisan manner to better serve veterans and their families. No one should disagree this is the least we owe these men and women."

• Patients suffering from undiagnosed illnesses will have an improved chance of discovering successful treatment options if a bill introduced Tuesday by U.S. Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican, is passed into law. Mr. Carter and the original co-sponsor, House Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier, California Republican, introduced the Charles August Long Undiagnosed Diseases Research and Collaboration Network Act of 2011. The bill would create an Undiagnosed Disease database at the National Institutes of Health for maintenance of case records to advance the early detection, prevention, treatment, cure, and control of currently undiagnosed and unregistered diseases.

"This bill will provide the commonsense networking tools for our medical community to better share information on undiagnosed illnesses," Mr. Carter said. "With physicians equipped to instantly share data nationwide on mystery conditions, we can develop more effective treatments and eventually cures for illnesses that currently defy definition."

"The challenges faced by families dealing with the undiagnosed illness of a loved one are beyond daunting," Mr. Dreier said. "After studying this issue for some time, I was surprised to learn that there is not a more effective approach for physicians to identify and talk with other doctors who are treating patients with similar undiagnosed illnesses. The establishment of the CAL Network will put in place a forum for physicians to search for similar cases and facilitate cross-disease research of undiagnosed illnesses. Ultimately, the faster a problem can be diagnosed, the easier it will become to improve the care of the patient."

The bill is named for 5-year old Carl August Long "Cal" of Cedar Park, Texas, who passed away in December 2006 of an undiagnosed illness. Cal's mother, Heather Long of Cedar Park, Texas, attended the recent news conference. Ms. Long asked Mr. Carter to help with legislation following her son's loss in spite of the family's three-year struggle to discover the cause of the child's illness.

Mr. Carter, House Republican Conference Secretary, says a national database for undiagnosed illness would not only benefit children, but would be a health asset for the nation's veterans.

"Every war invariably produces veterans who have contracted previously unknown ailments and illnesses. This bill could significantly lessen the amount of time necessary to research and diagnose their symptoms and develop effective treatments. It could also provide an early warning system in the event our military personnel were unknowingly exposed to chemical or biological agents."

• The House of Representatives has unanimously passed the final version of the Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011 (H.R. 1383) to keep student veterans enrolled in the school of their choice this school year by temporarily restoring the original Post-9/11 GI Bill method of paying tuition and fees based on the maximum in-state, undergraduate fee schedule. The Senate passed the bill unanimously on Thursday, after the House passed a previous version in May. Upon the president's signature, the change will go into effect on Aug. 1, 2011, protecting student veterans from what would have been severe reductions in tuition payments. This is the first piece of legislation for America's veterans of 2011 to be sent to President Obama.

The Restoring GI Bill Fairness Act of 2011 allows student veterans who have been accepted for enrollment by a school on or prior to Jan. 4, 2011, but were not necessarily attending the school at that time to be "grandfathered" in under the bill. The legislation will help students in Arizona, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Texas.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or email sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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